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Johnny English Reborn

Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

There's so much to commend in "Johnny English Reborn" (Universal), a comedy sequel which has none of the scatological humor of its predecessor—2003's "Johnny English"—that it seems a shame to highlight, and quibble about, a single vulgar sight gag.

Still, since it's such an unfortunate anomaly in an otherwise recommendable movie, here goes:

As the proceedings open, British secret agent Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) is undergoing martial-arts training in China, hoping to make himself invincible after an earlier spy operation in Mozambique has gone terribly wrong. Part of this training involves pulling ever-larger rocks that—as we can tell by implication—are attached to his private parts. The payoff, though, doesn't emerge until a full 90 minutes later, during a climactic fight with an evil double agent, when Johnny is shown to be impervious to being kicked in the crotch.

Fortunately, this is the only dubious, and dull, gag in the film, as Johnny—a combination of Atkinson's much-celebrated Mr. Bean and Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin of the "Naked Gun" franchise—overcomes any and all obstacles in elaborately droll set-pieces and employs the occasionally funny weapon, including a Rolls-Royce that responds to voice commands.

Like Mr. Bean, Johnny is at his funniest and most sympathetic when he's competently triumphing over severe odds. We're not laughing at Johnny, but with him. Younger adolescents are unlikely to understand some of the dry James Bond references, but adults will, and the in-jokes aren't prevalent enough to put this into the cult-film category.

The plot—as scripted by William Davies and Hamish McColl and directed by Oliver Parker—has Johnny rebounding from an operation in which the new president of Mozambique was assassinated while under his supposed protection.

On his way to uncovering the people responsible, Johnny continually embarrasses his boss Pamela (Gillian Anderson) and lurches toward a romance with psychologist Kate (Rosamund Pike).

The film contains some cartoonish violence, a single tasteless visual joke and fleeting mildly crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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